Censured Arizona lawmaker dodges expulsion over shooting comment

Senators voted 24-3 to refer Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, to the Ethics Committee for investigation of her social posts after Buffalo massacre.

Updated: May 16, 2022 - 11:29pm

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Arizona lawmakers decided against expelling a Republican senator for comments over the weekend inferring that a mass shooting in New York was secretly a federal conspiracy.

Instead, senators voted 24-3 to refer Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, to the Ethics Committee to investigate a Saturday post on multiple social media sites, saying, “Fed boy summer has started in Buffalo.”

The comment came hours after an 18-year-old white man allegedly shot and killed 10 people outside a Buffalo, New York, supermarket in a traditionally Black neighborhood. Many observers drew comparisons to Rogers’ previous comments claiming federal agents were committing atrocities under the guise of American citizens.

Rogers didn’t speak during the debate to refer her comment to the investigative panel, nor did she comment when Democrats successfully forced a roll call vote to expel her. That effort failed 11-15, with all Republicans and one Democrat voting against it.

She did take to Twitter just before lawmakers began discussing potential punishment for the first-term Republican who’d garnered former President Donald Trump’s endorsement.

“Of course I condemn the violence in Buffalo, who doesn’t? I also condemn the #FakeNews and the government promoting violence and then blaming it on regular patriotic Americans as if regular Americans share those despicable views,” she said. “Everything is not what it seems!”

In introducing the measure to have Rogers investigated, Rep. Sonny Gray, R-Sun City, echoed others in stressing that a vote for expulsion without any due process would be unfair. Others quoted Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure, which says expulsion of a legislative member must follow certain steps that amount to due process.

“I would hope that, before we take a very, very heavy decision of expelling or not expelling a member, that we would have at least picked up the darned book and taken a look at what’s necessary to do that,” said Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge.

Democrats maintained that the Arizona Constitution allows the Legislature to expel a member with a supermajority vote, and an investigation amounts to an implicit endorsement of Rogers’ comment.

“What this does, ultimately, is it kicks the can down the road,” said Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale. “It avoids more attention and gives it to another committee.”

Rogers was censured on March 1 for her threats to “destroy” other Republicans’ careers at an appearance hosted by white nationalist figure Nick Fuentes.